By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
Jonathan Adler’s experiences in design created his renowned style. Beginning his career as a potter, Adler rose to prominence nearly 30 years ago, learning along the way. His hard-earned wisdom shapes his new Wondrium series.
Influential potter and designer Jonathan Adler began his professional career in pottery after showing several of his unique pieces to Barneys, who ordered a collection from him in 1994. In the 28 years since, he has opened his own stores with retail locations worldwide, turning them into a successful home interior design business. His hard work and practice in design and pottery made him a household name—Adler has appeared as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Good Morning America—and helped shape his creative side.
In the new Wondrium series Decorating like a Designer, with Jonathan Adler, he relays stories from his personal experiences as they relate to his excellent eye for style.
Sic Parvis Magna
“My design career and my life in design really started on the potter’s wheel,” Adler said. “I am a potter, a designer, an author, and lover of glamorous spaces. My expertise in design comes from being in this business for a long time and having done it all, from being a potter to making furniture and all the stuff that surrounds you, to designing spaces from the smallest studio apartment to the biggest hotels you can imagine.”
Adler learned in his pottery days that the guiding principle of making pots is control and that the potter must maintain confidence, speed, and intentionality. Philosophy also comes into play as an essential part of managing a pot at the wheel.
“Making a pot is actually the ultimate expression of the Apollonian versus the Dionysian, because the clay wants to explode in chaos and fly off the wheel, and I need to be in control of its impulse towards chaos,” he said.
Throwing Oneself into Throwing Clay
Adler’s interest in pottery began in childhood, but it led to much more.
“It’s funny; I’ve had a strange journey and I would hardly say I’m a carefree person, but I never had a plan at all,” he said. “I just made pots, sold pots, and let it all unfold. I’m glad I did it that way; for me, clay was almost like a gateway drug to a general interest in design and to a creative life.
“So, you never know what your interests and hobbies can lead you to.”
He first tried his hand at pottery at summer camp at the age of 13. He said the moment he touched clay, “it was on,” and became the most rewarding relationship ever. He said it was the best training grounds for becoming a designer that he could hope for, because all the issues he addresses in his designing can be boiled down to the same issues as making a pot.
“It’s about proportion, it’s about silhouette, it’s about harmony, it’s about balance, it’s about finishing something well and not doing it just halfway,” Adler said. “Something as simple as a mug or vase can involve a bazillion decisions that are all pretty much analogous to the decisions you have to make when designing a room or a house.”
Adler said that it never crossed his mind that he would grow up and become a potter, then a retailer, a furniture designer, and a designer of hotels and houses and restaurants. The influence that his career has had on his unique style shone through to the Wondrium team, too.
“Jonathan approaches design from a really personal point of view, and talks about how adding notes of play and eccentricity are the most important things you can do in any decorating project,” Wondrium Content Developer Susan Lutz said. “He talks about his own design journey and it’s just really fun.”
Decorating like a Designer, with Jonathan Adler is now available to stream on Wondrium.